Guiding Waters: Water for people, Water by People
“We (Allah) created from water every living thing.” (Quran, 21:30)
We often forget how connected we are as people to each other. The food that we eat has passed through countless hands. The clothes that we wear are made by people in distant lands. The homes that we live in are built through the labour of many workers. The air that we breathe in has been breathed in by so many others. And, the water that we need for survival has been touched by the actions of so many people. This water that comes out of our taps has flowed through lands lived on by others. It has flowed into rivers and dams used by others. It has been treated and purified by others. It comes to us through reservoirs and piping that have been installed and are maintained by others. And after we use this water, it leaves our homes through the sewers to enter our rivers and dams. This used water is cleaned by others and will then be used by others.
South Africa is astonishingly rich in many natural resources. However, when it comes to water, we do not have much. Our country is one of the 20 driest countries on this planet, receiving an average rainfall of less than 500 mm/year in wetter regions and a mere 200 mm/year in the drier regions of our country. Rain does not always fall when and where it is needed the most. Many areas that have high demands for water receive less water than what they need. The injustices of apartheid have left about 15 million people without a safe water supply and over 20 million without adequate sanitation services. While government managed to address these backlogs to some extent, there are still many areas without adequate water supply and sanitation. Continued pollution of our water ways, our failing infrastructure, climate change and excessive use in our homes, businesses, industries and on our farms threaten our water security. The ever increasing demand for water and decreasing water quality continue to make careful water management a priority in our country. Yet, we continue to waste water faster than it can be replenished. Water is life and our fresh water systems in South Africa are in crisis!
“And He (Allah) is the One who created man from water, then made of him relations created by lineage and relations created by marriage.” (Quran, 25:54)
As Muslims, we must recognise that water is a blessing and mercy from Allah SWT. We need to cherish water and use it responsibly. Mankind, plants and animals need water for survival. Allah SWT emphasises the value of water and reminds us to be thankful of water in several places in the Quran. With water, Allah SWT gives life to the dry earth and beautifies the land. Islam revolves around the use of water for essential acts of worship like istinjaa, wudhu and ghusl. The Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad SAW teaches us some important basic lessons when it comes to using and appreciating water. In summary, we need to use water wisely, not pollute it, and help provide water to other people and animals.
Some examples of water lessons that we can draw from the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad SAW are:
- Do not waste water when using it, even if there is enough!
- The Messenger of Allah SAW passed by Sa’d when he was performing ablution, and he said: “What is this extravagance?” Sa’d asked: “Can there be any extravagance in ablution?” The Messenger of Allah replied: “Yes, even if you are on the bank of a flowing river.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
- Do not pollute the waterways!
- Narrated Mu’adh: He said: “Beware of three things that cause you to be cursed: relieving yourself at the watering places, on the roadbeds and in the shades.” ( Sunan Abu Dawud)
- If you have extra water, share it!
- It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah SAW said: “Three things cannot be denied to anyone: water, pasture and fire.” (Ibn Majah)
- It is narrated by Abu Hurairaa that Prophet Muhammad SAW had said that among the three types of people whom Allah will neither talk to, nor look at, on the Day of Resurrection, is a man who withholds water after already seeing to his own needs. Allah SWT will say to him, “Today I will withhold My Grace from you as you withheld the superfluity of what you had not created.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
- Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: Allah’s Messenger SAW said, “A lady was punished because of a cat which she had imprisoned till it died. She entered the (Hell) Fire because of it, for she neither gave it food nor water as she had imprisoned it, nor set it free to eat from the vermin of the earth.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
- The best charity is giving water to drink and it is a means of seeking forgiveness!
- It was narrated that Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah said:”I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, my mother has died; shall I give in charity on her behalf?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ I said: ‘What kind of charity is best?’ He said: ‘Providing drinking water.'” (Sunan an-Nasa’i)
- Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger SAW as saying: There was a dog moving around a well whom thirst would have killed. Suddenly a prostitute from the prostitutes of Bani Isra’il happened to see it and she drew water in her shoe and made it drink, and she was pardoned because of this. (Sahih Muslim)
- Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger SAW as saying: A person suffered from intense thirst while on a journey, when he found a well. He climbed down into it and drank (water) and then came out and saw a dog lolling its tongue on account of thirst and eating the moistened earth. The person said: This dog has suffered from thirst as I had suffered from it. He climbed down into the well, filled his shoe with water, then caught it in his mouth until he climbed up and made the dog drink it. So Allah appreciated this act of his and pardoned him. Then (the Companions around him) said: Allah’s Messenger, is there for us a reward even for (serving) such animals? He said: Yes, there is a reward for service to every living animal. (Sahih Muslim)
The environment needs to be conserved as a whole to care for our water resources. If we pollute our lands and air, we pollute our water systems and destroy the ecosystems that keep our water systems healthy. The water that we waste and pollute as individuals, is water stolen from other people, animals and plants. The water that we fail to conserve, is water stolen from future generations. As Muslim we have the duty to conserve and protect this resource. It is a matter of concern that our disregard for water, our pollution and our wastefulness are depriving human and non-human creatures of water. We need to proactively and continuously care and act for water as individuals, communities and as a global society. We need to change our habits in our homes, businesses, schools, madressahs and masaajid. And we need to invest in sustaining our water resources for all into the future.
May Allah SWT guide our actions when it comes to caring for water when we play, pray and work. And may He make these actions as a means of reward and forgiveness. Aameen. #guidingwaters